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The real economic screw-ups aren't at Occupy Wall Street
November 2, 2011
As a financial journalist, I witness the sentiment the mortgage industry feels toward movements such as Occupy Wall Street more than others. For the most part, people I work with are attempting to make the best of a bad situation. The sympathy toward Occupy protesters in the mortgage finance space, it should be told, is much stronger than anyone outside the industry likely expects. So the largely honest ribbing revolves around the feeling that the Occupy movement is populated by people who had no problems when the debt markets were operating generously, and now feel motivated to protest because that money was taken away by corporate greed and misguided bailouts. It's a legitimate complaint. And it's a polarizing debate. This would be great for dialogue and discussion if it were not for the screw-ups. And I'm not talking about those living in tent cities across metro areas. I'm talking about the screw-ups in the mortgage finance space. An egregious example of this can be summed up by the decisions by everyone at a Halloween party at the Steven J. Baum default law firm in New York. This group of individuals are gainfully employed only by the fact that people who didn't pay their mortgage may need to be kicked out of their homes. Yet, they don't see what's wrong with dressing up like the homeless and constructing bivouac mockery (see photo below). It is quite simply, a total outrage. And the knee-jerk apology later issued to the press by the law firm does little to persuade us to believe its claim that "keeping a delinquent borrower in their home is the best result that can be achieved through loss mitigation." I work with several default law firms. It's a much-maligned group. Enforcing property rights is a dirty job, they understand, but they perform it to the letter of the law. But the Baum stunt offends the property preservationists who work to help people at the end of the line and left in their homes. Actually, it pretty much offends everyone and it is clear the law firm does not understand the extent of the damage this may cause. The mortgage finance industry is working tirelessly through a quagmire of issues. We aren't getting younger, by the way, our industry is failing to attract new talent as fewer people are attracted to the business we do. Dear Steven Baum: The entire housing industry relies on people wanting to buy homes. It can be argued that the entire economy relies on a robust housing industry. Please also tell this to your employees, as it is clear by their actions they don't get it. Thank you. P.S. It also means you are hiring screw-ups. You may want to go to Occupy Wall Street to recruit people more sympathetic to the anti-foreclosure stance your law firm claims to uphold. Write to Jacob Gaffney. Follow him on Twitter @jacobgaffney.